Wilson Cribbs + Goren Assists Austin Developer in Modifying Outdated Deed Restrictions
A story in the February 2, 2016, issue of the Austin Business Journal details how an Austin developer, with the assistance of Zeca Mazcuri, a real estate attorney with Wilson Cribbs & Goren, was able to change the deed restrictions on a commercial property in East Austin.
In December 2012, Shalou Barth put a contract on a commercial property. At that time, she discovered antiquated deed restrictions stating that only Caucasians could own the property and only certain types of alcohol could be served.
Before Ms. Barth could realize her vision of transforming the aging, ugly strip center into a cool East Austin retail project, she would need to change the restrictions.
According to the article, “The legal requirement to change the deed mandated that all 15 owners of 21 surrounding land parcels approve those changes.”
“‘Who can get 100 percent of anything, especially since many of them are rental properties?’ Barth said. ‘It was all pretty discouraging.’
“Doors were slammed on her. Phone calls disconnected. Barth was disconsolate, until she woke up one morning and started researching information about deed restriction legislation.”
“It became apparent that she wouldn’t need 100 percent buy-in, but she would need one more person to sign off on the changes. She was at day 28 of a 30-day extension she received to meet the contract deadline.”
“‘My only hope was this one last property owner—and I got it done,’ Barth said.”
Barth first contacted Reid Wilson, a founding shareholder and the chairman of Wilson Cribbs + Goren, who has extensive experience with land use law. Mr. Wilson put Mr. Mazcuri on the project. Mr. Mazcuri was able to assist Ms. Barth with a deed restriction amendment process created by the Texas Legislature and set forth in the Texas Property Code under Chapter 201. The firm drafted the necessary documents and Ms. Barth pounded the bricks. With 75 percent approval, she was able to modify the restrictions in record time and make the amendment successful.
According to Mr. Mazcuri, “It should be noted that although ‘Caucasian only’ and other such discriminatory deed restrictions are unconstitutional and deemed void without the need of an amendment, it was important to Ms. Barth to affirmatively remove any trace of such discrimination in the chain of title, in addition to the amendment permitting alcohol sales, which were needed to support the retail development.”